One of my favourite moments this month was hosting my boyfriend’s family for dinner one Wednesday night. I made a yummy frittata and a simple salad with homemade vinaigrette and brownies for dessert. Everyone loved everything, but that wasn’t what made me so happy about the night. It was more of this wonderful feeling – a quiet feeling of total contentment, of feeling centered and settled, and of feeling like I can make beautiful, lovely things happen for myself and for the people I care about.
At one point I asked my boyfriend, concerned, if he thought there had been enough food for everyone. He replied by saying that it had been a light meal, just right for that evening. He said, “See! You’re bringing light to them.”
In his perfectly imperfect English, he was making a play on words. A light meal, meaning the food was not too heavy. But also, a light meal, meaning happy and easy and just plain nice for everyone involved. Not too much, not too little, just enough and just right.
Last Sunday, I had a bad day. In the morning, I put my iPad on the bathroom counter, as I do at least three times a day. But this time, I somehow accidentally knocked it down onto the tile floor, and the screen instantly cracked into a spiderweb.
An hour later, I took a loaf pan full of freshly-baked banana bread out of the oven and promptly dropped it onto the kitchen floor, shattering glass absolutely everywhere and cutting up my toe and ankle in the process.
Do you want to guess what my first reaction was both times?
You got it:“What the hell is wrong with me?! I’m such an idiot.”
And I really meant it, I truly felt that way. Those thoughts played on a loop in my head all day: the serious concern that I had some deep, fundamental issue with my coordination, the feelings that I was just clumsy and careless and lazy, and the belief that I don’t deserve nice things.
I felt dark and heavy and unworthy and ashamed. I’m even still kind of ashamed to be writing about it, because somewhere deep down I feel like it’s embarrassing, like it’s something that would only happen to someone deeply troubled or broken in some way.
But I’m realizing that these thoughts that come so easily in dark moments are my limiting beliefs. They’re the unhelpful, untrue, unfounded automatic reactions that hold me back from my joy and my power.
I chose light as my word for 2016, but throughout the past month it’s become very obvious to me that I won’t be able to find the light until I stop dwelling in the dark. Until I find ways to acknowledge my limiting beliefs, bring them to the surface, look at them in the light of day and successfully argue to myself that they’re false. Until I stop listening to every negative feeling I have and allowing it to affect my behaviour instead of questioning its reality. Until I train myself to focus on the positive instead of perseverating about the negative. Until I notice and really unpack all the crazy stories I’m telling myself.
And I’m trying. Every day, I’m trying and learning how to better accomplish these important, lifelong challenges.
Thankfully, despite my mood I still found lots of light that day. My boyfriend picked the glass out of my ankle, sent me for a shower, and cleaned up the entire mess without being asked by the time I was done. I was embarrassed to tell my mom because I was worried that she’d worry about me, but I reached out to a friend who also struggles with anxiety and together we were able to make light of the situation. And then I went out and bought us a new loaf pan – one made of sturdy metal instead of glass.
Later in the day, I spilled flour on the floor and nearly broke the glass container we keep it in. As I was sweeping it up, I realized that I was calling myself an idiot out loud. I took a deep breath, ignored my insistent feelings, and switched the script:
“I made a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes. Today’s a bad day, and I made a mistake.”
Choosing to be kind to myself may not have been my first reaction, but I am grateful that I could eventually start to reach for forgiveness, grace, and light.
I created a photo project for the year based on my word: the Looking For The Light Project (#lookingforthelightproject). The wording is important, because I think that’s what I have to do: I have to look for it. As much as I might wish otherwise, it’s not in my nature to simply bask in all the light I have in my life. Maybe one day that’ll change, but for now it’s something I have to go after with my whole heart.
One of my favourite things to do each year is to choose a word or a theme to guide me for the next 12 months. I got this idea from Elise Blaha Cripe, via Ali Edwards’ One Little Word project, and I’ve been doing it for three years now. My words so far have been reach in 2013, abundancein 2014, and gracein 2015. Seeing them all together makes me so happy, because any word I take on as a personal theme becomes really special to me. Abundance has probably been my most powerful word thus far – it really guided me through a year that was at times tumultuous and challenging. I also did a great job of keeping it at the front of my mind and reflecting on it often, two things I hope to do this year with my new word.
My word for 2016 is light. Even the word itself feels so evocative and uplifting, and it also makes me feel hopeful. To me, it seems to have that same quality that abundance did, in that it offers a very quick guide to switching to a more positive mindset and handling the less-than-ideal aspects of life. I also love that it has so many uses – it’s both a noun and a verb, not to mention a wonderful physical thing.
There are a few different ways I want to use light this year:
Be light: Be kinder to others and to myself. Take myself, and especially my temporary emotions, less seriously. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Be a light: Bring the positivity to the party, or the conversation, or the interaction. Share my knowledge and joy. Spread good ideas and wisdom.
Shine light: Focus my attention on all the good, positive, lovely things in my life. Thank and truly appreciate others.
Light up: Get really excited about things. Plan adventures, and look forward to them. Engage in interesting conversations, follow through on my passions, say yes to things that are exciting.
Feel the light: Literally get outside into the sunshine more often. Bring more light into our home in the form of lamps and warm lightbulbs, as well as a bit of light in the form of life: plants, music, animals. Remember to celebrate my small wins, appreciate when I am appreciated, and notice what’s great.
This year, I’ll also be taking Ali Edwards’ One Little Word workshop class for 2016. I’m hoping it will help me keep my word present in my everyday life and in turn make it more meaningful and helpful for me.
Lots of love and light to you and yours as we head into the new year!
For the past two years, I’ve chosen a guiding word for the year ahead. In 2013, my word was reach, which represented getting outside of my comfort zone after 4 years of doing the same thing, reaching out to others and trying to dream bigger. In 2014, I chose the word abundance, which served me in about a thousand ways this year including encouraging me to think outside the box, recognize all the possibilities open to me, and to think big instead of small. I love both of these words – I was actually reluctant to switch away from abundance, I don’t think it’s finished teaching me things – and will definitely keep them in my toolbox.
For 2015, my word is grace. I can’t say exactly where it came from, but when I was making shortlists of words for the year, grace kept appearing at the very top. This is the first of my words that has felt a little beyond me: I’m not religious, and “graceful” is not even one of the top 50 words that me or anyone I know would use to describe me. I don’t know how to embody grace, I’m pretty bad at having faith in things, I fall down a lot, and I don’t always take care of myself. But I wish I was better at all those things, which is exactly why I need this word this year.
Grace is one of those beautiful words that has so many different meanings and so many synonyms for each of those meanings. Some of my favourites are: charm, ease, kindness, charity, enhance, embellish, elevate.
There are three ways that I want to approach grace this year:
Be graceful: I want to make choices that are in line with my values, stay centered, act calmly, dress well, listen to my still small inner voice, take care of myself, and not fall down so much.
Say grace: The way you might say grace around the dinner table to show your thanks for the food, I want to actively appreciate everything I am lucky enough to have in my life. I want to full experience and enjoy the moment. I want to tell people what they mean to me and keep in touch better.
My choosing a word for each year is inspired by Ali Edwards’ One Little Word project. Her word this year is give which I love for all its various meanings and may adopt as one of my secondary words for the year (along with whimsy). I love having three little words that have a special meaning in my life, and I’m looking forward to seeing how grace grows with me this year.
Do you choose a word or intention to guide your year?
More about my words of the year: Reach and Abundance. You can download that wallpaper here.